Flexing wings and more reliability woes (Red Bull race review) (Video)

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2010

As at Silverstone, Red Bull’s front wings were the centre of attention before the race at Hockenheim – but for a very different reason.

The new front wings were observed to be flexing at high speeds, allowing parts of the wing to move closer to the ground and operate more efficiently.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 4
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’13.791 (-0.556) 1’14.347
Race position 3 6
Average race lap 1’18.567 (-0.574) 1’19.141
Laps 67/67 67/67
Pit stops 1 1

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Sebastian Vettel

Started from his sixth pole position of the season and third in a row. But, just like at Silverstone, he didn’t so much as lead a lap of the race.

Vettel got away slowly and darted right in a fruitless attempt to keep Fernando Alonso behind, which ended up letting Felipe Massa through as well.

With the front runners setting a fast pace his team were able to bring him in early in an attempt to get past Alonso. But it didn’t work, and Vettel was seldom close to the Ferraris from that moment on.

Compare Sebastian Vettel’s form against his team mate in 2010

Mark Webber

The movement of Red Bull’s much-discussed ‘flexi-wing’ was clear to see on their cars during the race – and Vettel’s at Silverstone. The same movement was not apparent at Valencia.

Watch how the top of the endplates on Webber’s front wing slowly dip as he builds up speed on the straight, then quickly rise as he begins to decelerate:

The FIA tests wings to ensure they do not deflect excessively and had Red Bull’s wings not complied with those tests then they wouldn’t have been allowed to race them. The same goes for Ferrari who had a similar wing, though the degree of deflection was harder to spot on video.

In other words, the wings are legal to the letter of the law and if the FIA wishes to ban them it’ll have to change its rules to do so. In the meantime expect other teams to show up with their versions of the wing very soon.

If the flexi-wing shows one of Red Bull’s characteristics this year – aggressive development in the pursuit of better performance – Weber’s race was spoiled by their other defining trait: unreliability.

Webber was told by the team to leave a four-second gap to Jenson Button, who he was chasing, in order to keep his oil temperatures down.

He had led Button before the pit stops but lost time behind Nico Rosberg, allowing Button to get ahead of him.

Webber ended the race in sixth and the two Red Bull drivers are now level on championship points.

Compare Mark Webber’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 German Grand Prix

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Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images

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66 comments on Flexing wings and more reliability woes (Red Bull race review) (Video)

  1. JuanFanger said on 27th July 2010, 11:51

    Re Webber: “He had led Button before the pit stops but lost time behind Nico Rosberg, allowing Button to get ahead of him.”

    I cannot believe these teams spend millions on developing and racing cars but don’t seem able to perform simple tactical calculations: If you are 18 seconds in front of another car and it takes 20 seconds to pit and change tyres then you are always going to be behind when you exit.

    I suspect Marko made the call ;)

    • Mark Avelli said on 27th July 2010, 12:51

      Is “oil temperature” the new “conserve fuel” instruction I wonder?

    • BreezyRacer said on 27th July 2010, 12:52

      To a point I agree, but also consider that you only SUSPECT everyone else’s plans, you don’t know them. If someone comes in on the same lap, or a mid packer plans their stop 10 laps later and you get stuck behind him, your plans are foiled.

      The real problem in F1 these days is the lack of ability to pass at venues like Germany this last weekend. That drags out the team orders and makes track position too important.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th July 2010, 14:47

      Webber was losing a lot of time behind Hamilton whose lap times had increased after lap eight. In retrospect, it would have made more sense for them to keep him out, assuming his tyre were up to it. But it’s very easy to say that with hindsight – they had no way of knowing when Hamilton was going to pit.

      • JuanFanger said on 28th July 2010, 11:40

        Webber may have been losing time to the leaders but he was never going to pit that lap and get out in front of Kubica or Rosberg and he only just made it out in front of Kobayashi, even after the 3rd best pit stop of the race.

        Vettel only just made it out in front of them on the previous lap and he was miles ahead. Webber was gaining about half a second a lap on Kubica and Rosberg so maybe in 3 to 5 laps time it would have become a realistic option.

        Probably the only way he could have jumped Hamilton by pitting when he did was *if* Hamilton came in on the same lap and *if* Hamilton’s pit stop went wrong, but he was always going to lose time to everyone else, including the leaders *and* Button.

        Hindsight wasn’t necessary, it was obvious at the time.

        Perhaps the only positive that came out of it was Webber was forced to overtake Rosberg in a vain effort to protect his position from Button. Or at least that’s what the live timing showed – you would never have known it from the coverage. Perhaps this was the only “real” overtake in the top 10 after the first lap?

  2. Dan Bigham said on 27th July 2010, 11:54

    The suspension moves 20mm from no load to full downforce load, because you are measuring relative to the tyres that move, the flex is actually very minimal. For a precise measurement you would have to measure against the nose cone.

  3. Dave Gardiner said on 27th July 2010, 12:41

    It seems pretty widely accepted that the Red Bulls produce the most downforce of any of the current F1 cars, so surely by definition, that means that their wings will deflect more than anyone elses?

    • Lee said on 27th July 2010, 13:00

      Their downforce advantage comes from their highly developed blown diffuser. I have heard that Maclarens front wing is one of the best out there but theirs does not deflect. It seems to me that the deflection helps minimise the drag at high speed. If the comments about the flex not being at the part measured by the FIA then those that make these rules are dumber than I thought (How hard is it to say that no part of the wing is allowed below a certain height and only a certain amount of tip flex is allowed?) But hey if it is legal it is legal and the others must now follow.

      • Dave Gardiner said on 27th July 2010, 13:03

        I would have thought that with the huge amount of downforce available to Red Bull at the rear, just to get some aerodynamic balance, their front wing would have to also be producing huge amounts of downforce though?

        • Lee said on 27th July 2010, 14:04

          I think because the diffuser generates the downforce a little further forward than the rear wing they naturally produce a quite balanced downforce. Obviously they still need a good front wing but I am not sure it needs to produce more than anyone else. As I said, I have heard that Maclarens front end is superb but they are loosing out as the blown diffuser on the red bulls (and now ferraris) produces lots of low drag downforce where as the wings increase drag substantially to produce the same force.

  4. sumedh said on 27th July 2010, 13:23

    I hope to find an audience here atleast.

    I hope this comment isn’t drowned in a gush of “Ferrari team order comments”.

    But does anyone find it peculiar that Vettel right after his pit-stop came out in clean air, whereas Webber came out in a huge amount of traffic which ultimately cost him position to Button.

    Team-tactics? That loss of position allowed Vettel and Webber to be on exact equal points!!

    • JuanFanger said on 27th July 2010, 13:39

      There’s a quote somewhere about not attributing to malice what can be easily be explained by incompetence. All year the Red Bull tactics have been hopeless and have cost Webber a lot of points but also Vettel at times.

  5. dragon said on 27th July 2010, 13:42

    The whole Ferrari furore has left Sebastian from really facing what was another embarrasing start. It’s strange, he usually doesn’t struggle off the line, but that’s two races now, and this time he looked even worse by his ridiculous squeezing of Alonso at turn one, seemingly forgetting that he left most of the track on his left wide open.

    • bosyber said on 27th July 2010, 13:47

      I think he is feeling the pressure – in Silverstone he failed to start well, giving the lead to his teammate. It seems that his home GP and Silverstone combined to heave more pressure on his shoulders, making him now focus on not letting the guy next to him through. If he has pole in Hungary, will we see him stay in the middle and swerve?

      I am not convinced by him anymore, for me he is fast, but not such an all-around good driver (yet). He needs to calm down, look around him, and work on his weaknesses.

      • Lee said on 27th July 2010, 16:03

        Vettel has not had poor starts off the line at all. If you watch his movement at silverstone and germany you will see that he matches the cars next to him. His car seems to have a big pull to the right though (they really should straighten the wheels out). He therefore travels further to the first corner and ultimately looses out. Not at all clever and potentially dangerous if he ever succeeds in causing the other driver to hit the wall.

  6. DaveW said on 27th July 2010, 15:13

    The wing-dip works by creating ground-effect—it adds a diffuser-like effect to the wing—and possible also by changing the angle of attack on the winglets.

    Bernards’ photos tell it all. You can see that there are two cables, with one going to the little endplate-mounted winglet we see flexing in the video and the other to the endplate. This tells me that they are getting an angle of attack benefit from that winglet because there is no ground effect working there, and probably reaping some ground-effect as well.

    It’s weird that McLaren didn’t note this until last weekend. I also note that McLaren, post spy-gate, is not playing hardball on these things. For example they were all over Ferrari about the flexi floor and their little front wing separation device Ferrari also had banned. Now they are all, “hey Stefano we read in a French paper about your illegal wings, you sly dog!”

    I’m not so keen to dismiss the Silverstone theory. I imagine that iwth the Abbey bump, the massive increase in downforce generated by that corner with the wing deflection, took the nose-mounts out of their spec. Newey does not make cars more robust than necessary.

  7. Paul A said on 27th July 2010, 19:00

    Just getting back to the title of this article (Flexing wings), the rule book has a number of entries that help define the design characteristics of the front wing; they are all applicable when the car is sitting still, and only one is truly applicable to flexing. It says:
    “3.17.1 Bodywork may deflect no more than 10mm vertically when a 500N load is applied vertically to it 800mm forward of the front wheel centre line and 795mm from the car centre line. The load will be applied in a downward direction … ”
    It is fairly obvious that the stewards have found that the wings comply (reported widely in the press) so the two questions that remain are (a) is photo or video evidence reliable compared to the official test? and (b) what are the loads involved?
    I would point out that 3.17.1 is a static test but the wings are working in a dynamic environment where there will be an increasingly positive downforce effect when using the 10mm to best advantage. The visual effect is going to be complicated by the fact that under 4 or 5g braking the front of the car will dip, maybe up to the limit of suspension travel plus a decrease in tyre radius. But far more important is whether or not at speeds approaching 300kph the downforce could exceed 500 newtons (approx kilos.) From a fluid dynamics point of view this is quite possible, if not probable – and if this is the case, then the flexing could legally exceed 10mm.
    This is just another case of writing too many rules in a too detailed manner – all the teams look for loopholes – and until the FIA radically simplify the rulebook it does not stand any chance of trying to introduce a sportsmanlike “spirit of the rules” approach compared to “the letter of the law.”

  8. DaveW said on 27th July 2010, 21:32

    We also don’t know how the weight is applied. The rules state a 50mm ram is applied downward, with some kind of 300mmx150mm adapter if necessary. Where is the ram hitting the wing? Anyway, it seems possible that you could have the top of the winglet resist the ram completely but have the bottom area of the endplate flex as much as you please.

    Alternatively, I think you are right in suggesting that if you actually use up all of the 10mm allowance, you may be able to then tip the wing into a ground-effect situation where it gets pulled down ever harder the lower it goes. Those end plates are now really mini-diffusers anyway with their cups and strakes.

    In any event, I’d like to hear a good explanation of why RBR was testing the deflection of wings with those wires when the test for legality is the one the FIA spells out.

  9. curedcat said on 27th July 2010, 23:45

    Just an observation here ,: the wing is supposed to deflect upwards while the car accelerates , but the RBR car actually decreases under braking . this theory is applicable even in road cars where when you stamp on the throttle the car front of the car seems to rise and jerks you backwards and if you stamp on the brakes the front decreases forcing you forwards . The redbull front end does not follow this simple principle and that makes it weird

  10. Dan said on 30th July 2010, 23:19

    Skilled engineers can design the wing to deflect by < 10mm (for example 10.48mm if you round) to comply with regulations. The trick is allowing the wing to deflect more (i.e. irregularly) past the threshold point which implies they have internal composites stressing to exactly the right levels to stoop and pick up ground effects.

    Imagine a piece of paper skimming across a smooth desk – that is a perfect example of ground effect. It both causes the car to 'float' and 'glues' it at the same height all at once. The board under the car is meant to prevent this, but looks like they've figured a way around that one with other aero updates.

    Well done RBR, can't wait till McLaren do similar and run away with both championships.

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